Film 1920 to 1940

The context of this time is summed up by the Timeline of Cinema:

The following are articles in the Dictionary of Film Studies that relate to cinematic developments during the years between 1920 and 1940:

The History of Hollywood Censoring

The Web page that goes along with the above documentary: History of Hollywood Censorship


The origins of the cinematic comedy are described in the following articles from the Dictionary of Film Studies:

Ask Father (1919) is a short silent comedy staring Harold Lloyd, who made over 200 films:

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Steamboat Bill, Jr. (1928) is a classic Buster Keaton comedy.  It was the last film produced independently by Buster Keaton, who was forced to become a part of MGM.  Coming under the control of a studio destroyed his creativity and ended his amazing run comedy masterpieces.  Buster Keaton did all of his own stunts.  When you watch this remember that scenes such as the house falling around Keaton was not a camera trick, that is a stunt.



Below is a three part explanation of melodrama:

The Perils of Pauline (1914) is a good example of the melodrama.  It was release as a serial with nine chapters or short films.  Below is the first chapter.

The Picnic is a stereotypical melodrama that follows the silent melodrama formula well.  It was filmed in 2012 as an exercise in recreating the silent era genre.

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Science Fiction

The following brief articles in the Dictionary of Film Studies provide an introduction to the theme of science fiction as a cinematic device:

Flash Gordon The Planet of Peril (1936) is a good example of pre-World War II science fiction.  It was release as a serial with 13 chapters or short films.  Below is the first chapter.

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Buck Rogers films are another good example of pre-World War II science fiction.  It was also release as a serial with 12 chapters,  and yes, those are some of the same actors as Flash Gordon.

Things to Come (1936) was a look at 100 years into the future.



Articles in the Dictionary of Film Studies

The History of Horror


The Cabinet of Dr. Caligari(1920)


Nosferatu (1922)


The Psychology of Scary Movies

Sound in Film

To begin our discussion on sound, please read the following article: The History of Sound in Movies - opens as a PDF

In the next clip you will witness Al Jolson singing Dirty Hands, Dirty Face in the first "Talkie" in the film, The Jazz Singer (1927):

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The History of Sound at the Movies

Introduction to Foley and Sound Effects for Film

How Music can Change a Film (Notice that while the image we see is the same each time, the different music gives it a different "feel" or "mood.")

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Essential Films

Charlie Chaplin's 1921 film, The Kid, can be considered both a comedy and a melodrama:

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Disney's Steamboat Willie (1927)  represents the debut of Mickey Mouse and Minnie Mouse.  This is the first cartoon with synchronize sound and the first to feature a fully post-produced soundtrack which distinguished it from earlier sound cartoons:


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